William Merritt Chase, 1849-1916: in memoriam

William Merritt Chase (1849–1916), Self Portrait in 4th Avenue Studio (1915-16), oil on canvas, 133.4 x 161.3 cm, The Richmond Art Museum, Richmond, IN. Wikimedia Commons.

William Merrit Chase was an American Modern Master: an accomplished and prolific portraitist, painter of glorious Impressionist landscapes, and a dedicated teacher whose influence extends into the current century.

When offered the opportunity to study in Europe, he reportedly responded: My God, I’d rather go to Europe than go to Heaven.
On his approach to the Old Masters, he is claimed to have uttered the maxim: We are all going to heaven and Van Dyck is of the company.

From the obituary published in the New York Times shortly after his death:
Things that would have been lost he saved for us — unconscious momentary attitudes of children, swift changes of color under angles of light that became different angles in the twinkling of an eye, the rhythms of draperies swung by flickering gust of wind…. The death of William Merritt Chase removes from the ranks of American artists one whose contributions probably will receive a richer measure of applause in the next century.

Biography and work

James Carroll Beckwith (1852–1917), Portrait of William Merritt Chase (1881-1882), oil on canvas, 198.1 × 96.5 cm, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN. Wikimedia Commons.

1, to 1883
2 1884-1890
3 1891-1900

John Singer Sargent (1856–1925), William M. Chase (1902), oil on canvas, 158.8 × 105.1 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY. Wikimedia Commons.

4 1901-1916

William Merritt Chase (1849–1916), Self Portrait in 4th Avenue Studio (1915-16), oil on canvas, 133.4 x 161.3 cm, The Richmond Art Museum, Richmond, IN. Wikimedia Commons.

A snapshot of 1916 in paintings and painters

Special topics

William Merritt Chase paints history, for a brief moment – student years in Munich

William Merritt Chase (1849–1916), Duveneck Painting the Turkish Page (1876), oil on canvas mounted on board, 26 x 36.2 cm, Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, OH. The Athenaeum.

In William Merritt Chase’s Studio: insights and informal portraits

William Merritt Chase (1849-1916), Carmencita (1890), oil on canvas, 177.5 x 103.8 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Gift of Sir William Van Horne, 1906), New York, NY. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Dancer: John Singer Sargent, William Merritt Chase, and James Carroll Beckwith

William Merritt Chase (1849–1916), Boat House, Prospect Park (1887), oil on board, 26 x 40.6 cm, Private collection. Wikimedia Commons.

City Life: 1 Eakins and Chase
City Life: 2 Henri, Cooper, and Bellows

William Merritt Chase (1849–1916), Idle Hours (c 1894), oil on canvas, 64.8 x 90.2 cm, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, TX. Wikimedia Commons.

Shinnecock summer: Chase in the country

William Merritt Chase (1849–1916), I’m Going to See Grandma (Mrs. Chase and Child) (c 1889), pastel on paper, 73.7 cm x 104.1 cm, San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, TX. Wikimedia Commons.

Meet the family: Chase at home

William Merritt Chase (1849–1916), Mrs. W.M. Chase and R.D. Chase (1916), oil on canvas, 157.5 x 127.6 cm, Private collection. The Athenaeum.

Family portraits

William Merritt Chase (1849–1916), Nude (c 1901), oil on canvas, 50.6 x 41 cm, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. Wikimedia Commons.

The spontaneous or methodical: Chase and Eakins at work

William Merritt Chase (1849–1916), Still Life with Fish (c 1910), oil on canvas, dimensions not known, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA. Wikimedia Commons.

Prizes, performance and still life

His colleagues and friends

Carroll Beckwith, the under-age model, and the jealous husband
Robert Henri and the Ashcan School
Frank Duveneck, silent companion

His students

William Merritt Chase (1849–1916), Portrait of Miss Dora Wheeler (1883), oil on canvas, 157.5 x 165.1 cm, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH. Wikimedia Commons.

Students of Chase: his greatest legacy – an overview of 20 former students
Louise Upton Brumback (1867-1929)
George Wesley Bellows (1882–1925), up to 1914
George Wesley Bellows (1882–1925), after 1914
Marsden Hartley (1877-1943), 1 experiments to 1921
Marsden Hartley (1877-1943), 2 mature landscapes
Emma Lampert Cooper (1855-1920), the invisible wife
Edward Charles Volkert (1871-1935), the pastural painter
Ella Sophonisba Hergesheimer (1873-1943) and Dora Wheeler Keith (1857-1940)
Charles Demuth (1883–1935), Precisionism, and flowers
Julian Onderdonk – bluebonnets and pseudonyms

William Merritt Chase (1849–1916), Lydia Field Emmet (c 1892), oil on canvas, 182.9 × 91.8 cm, Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY. Wikimedia Commons.

Further reading, exhibitions

Books and exhibitions to celebrate his centenary

Hirshler EE (2016) William Merritt Chase, Museum of Fine Arts Boston. ISBN 978 0 87846 839 3.
Longwell AG (2014) William Merritt Chase, A Life in Art, Parrish Art Museum and D Giles. ISBN 978 1 907804 43 4.
Smithgall E et al. (2016) William Merritt Chase, A Modern Master, The Phillips Collection and Yale UP. ISBN 978 0 300 20626 5.